The novel coronavirus infection claimed its first victim on board the contagion-infected USS Theodore Roosevelt on Monday. Infection on the vessel had led to controversies that led to the sacking of its captain, followed by the resignation of the US Navy Secretary. The deceased sailor is also the first US active duty military member to die of the deadly virus.

USS Theodore Roosevelt
USS Theodore Roosevelt Wikimedia Commons

The sailor tested positive for novel coronavirus on March 30. As a result, he and four other sailors were taken off the ship and lodged into an isolation center at the US Navy base in Guam, where the coronavirus-infected ship is docked.

On April 9, he was found unresponsive during a medical check-up and was immediately rushed to a local hospital's intensive care unit. He breathed his last on Monday.

He was the first coronavirus fatality among the more than 4,500 crewmen of USS Theodore Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. As many as 585 sailors have tested positive for Covid-19.

US Navy issues statement

Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, issued a statement on Monday: "My deepest sympathy goes out to the family, and we pledge our full support to the ship and crew as they continue their fight against the coronavirus".

"While our ships, submarines and aircraft are made of steel, sailors are the real strength of our Navy", he added.

In his statement, Defense Secretary Mark Esper noted that the Roosevelt crewman was the first active-duty military member to die of coronavirus. "We remain committed to protecting our personnel and their families while continuing to assist in defeating this outbreak", he said in his statement.

Controversy around USS Theodore Roosevelt

After the coronavirus outbreak was reported on board USS Theodore Roosevelt, its Captain Brett Crozier wrote a letter to his superiors, citing his concern over more crewmen being exposed to the deadly contagion.

"We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset - our sailors", he wrote in the letter.

The letter got leaked in the press and on April 2, and he was fired by the former Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. The sight of crew-members cheering as the captain disembarked the ship went viral. Days later, the captain himself tested positive for Covid-19.

On April 5, Navy Secretary Thomas Modly flew all the way to Guam and addressed Roosevelt's crew-members. In his address, he publicly rebuked the sacked captain, by calling him "too naive or too stupid". He also lashed out at the crew-men for their warm ovation for the sacked captain as he disembarked the ship.

As the issue went public, President Donald Trump said in his address the next day that he would intervene in the dispute. The same day, Secretary Modly issued a public apology.

On April 7, Modly resigned. Immediately, the army undersecretary James McPherson was appointed as the new Navy Secretary.